Lavender is an aromatic herb native to northern Africa and the mountainous regions of the Mediterranean, though it can now be found in cultivation around the world. Lavender has been used traditionally as a sedative and relaxing herb to relax the nervous system and soothe anxiety. It has also been used for headaches, fungal infections, insomnia, and to relieve mood disorders like depression. Lavender is often grown for the production of its essential oil, which comes from the distillation of the flower spikes of certain lavender species. Lavender is highly regarded for skin and beauty and is commonly used in fragrances, face mists, and shampoos to help purify the skin.
Lavender and the Nervous System
Among numerous lavender health benefits, there is also growing evidence suggesting that lavender oil may be an effective medicament in treatment of several neurological disorders. Several animal and human investigations suggest anxiolytic, mood stabilizer, sedative, analgesic, and anticonvulsive and neuroprotective properties for lavender. These studies raised the possibility of revival of lavender therapeutic efficacy in neurological disorders.
Stress, Anxiety and Depression
A study in 2012 on mice revealed that continuous exposure of lavender essential oils for 7 days significantly inhibited anxiety- and depression-like behaviors. Effects of lavender oil were compared with chlordiazepoxide, a sedative medication often used for reducing anxiety. Lavender oil exhibited antianxiety properties similar to those of chlordiazepoxide. The anti-anxiety effect of lavender was also compared with diazepam, another anxiety medication.
Headaches and Migraines
There's new evidence that the use of lavender oil can treat migraines. A study in European Neurology looked at the inhalation of lavender essential oils to treat migraines. The study concluded that inhaling lavender essential oil may be an effective and safe way to relieve migraine pain.
Skin and Hair Conditions
Topical use of lavender oil might help to treat a disease called alopecia aerate, which causes a person’s hair to fall out in patches. In one study published in the Archives of Dermatology, people rubbed the essential oil of lavender on the areas where hair had fallen out, and some experienced hair regrowth over the course of seven months as a result. When applied to the skin, lavender oils have also shown positive results in helping with eczema, acne, sunburns, and diaper rash.
A study published in the Journal of Medical Microbiology found that lavender oil could be effective in combating antifungal-resistant infections. The researchers found that the oil was lethal to a range of strains that can cause disease in the skin. In the study, the essential oils distilled from the Lavandula genus of the lavender plant seemed to work by destroying the membranes of fungal cells. The study showed that Lavandula oil is potent and demonstrates antifungal activity on a wide spectrum.
Lavender has a long history of use as a sleep-aid to support those suffering from insomnia and other sleep disorders. Often people stuff their pillows with lavender flowers to help them fall asleep and get a better night’s rest. In Germany, lavender tea has been approved as a supplement to treat sleep disruptions, restlessness, and stomach irritation.
Aromatherapy: Lavender Essential Oil Benefits
Lavender is most commonly used in aromatherapy. The fragrance from the oils of the lavender plant is believed to help promote calmness and wellness. A study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that topically applying lavender could also reduce the severity of menstrual cramps. According to the National Cancer Institute, aromatherapy can help patients manage the side effects of cancer treatment. Smell receptors send messages to the brain that can affect mood. Aromatherapy may also help adults who suffer from dementia.